Proper Plumbing Means Proper Performance

36″ Aluminum Super Air Knife being used in a monofilament extrusion line

An EXAIR customer recently contacted me about the application shown above, using an aluminum Super Air Knife model 110036 as a component to a blow off application in a monofilament extrusion line.  The extrusions from this line are used in one of the end user’s main product lines, a personal health device used by over a billion people around the world.

The original problem of drying the extrusions can certainly be solved with the setup shown, but the output force from the knife was less than what the customer expected, and below the EXAIR published data.  We take great care in the collection and verification of our performance data, so this prompted a deeper dive into the application to determine what could be the cause.

Immediately upon seeing the application photos, there were two things which stood out.  The first was the angle of attack of the knife, and the second was the compressed air plumbing.  The angle of attack in the original setup was ~90°, nearly perpendicular to the extrusions passing through the airstream from the knife.  EXAIR always recommends an angle of attack of ~45° to increase time in contact between the airstream from the knife and the materials passing through the airstream.  Although a small adjustment, this angle significantly contributes to overall blow off performance.

5mm ID x 8mm OD tubing used to supply compressed air to the knife

But, the real issue with this application was in the compressed air supply.  The tubing for this knife was shown as having a 5mm ID and an 8mm OD, which will allow a compressed air flow of ~40 SCFM at 80 PSIG, maximum, without consideration to pipe length from the compressor.  The 36” aluminum Super Air Knife will require 104.4 SCFM at 80 PSIG operating pressure.  So, it was clear that there was a significant plumbing problem, leading to the reduced performance from the knife.

In order to prove this out, we first had to take a pressure reading directly at the knife.  When this was done, the operating pressure dropped from ~85 PSIG at the main header to less than 20 PSIG at the knife.  By taking this pressure reading directly at the knife we were able to gain valuable information as to the true operating pressure of the knife, which was far below what the customer expected, but which made perfect sense given the performance output.

The remedy in this case was to increase the size of the supply line to at least 15mm ID (approximately equivalent to a ½” schedule 40 line), and preferably to something in the range of 19-20mm (~a ¾” schedule 40 line).  Once this was done the knife operated flawlessly, and after adjusting the angle of attack this application was optimized for the best possible results.

Being able to find the source of the problem for this application was a great service to the customer.  Our engineers are well-versed in compressed air system requirements, and we’re available for help in your application if needed.  If you’d like to contact an EXAIR Application Engineer we can be reached by email, phone (1-800-903-9247), or Twitter.

Lee Evans
Application Engineer

Full-Flow Air Knife Dries Copper Strip

Last week I was working with a customer who was using our 36″ Full-Flow Air Knife to dry a flat copper strip as it exited the rinse cycle of their process. The customer chose the Full-Flow design due to it’s small profile, making it easier to fit into the tight space available to mount to their machine. The customer stated that they flow tested the knife before installation and the knife “worked great” but once mounted, the flow was reduced significantly. They were thinking of returning the unit under our Unconditional 30 Day Guarantee but I offered to help troubleshoot the unit to see if we couldn’t relieve their issue(s).

The Full-Flow Air Knife is available up to 36″ in either aluminum or 303ss construction.

When they tested the unit external to the machine they were using 1″ hose (our recommendation for a 36″ Air Knife) running to a tee, which stepped down to 1/2″ ID hose going to both rear inlets on the back of the knife. But when they installed the knife, due to space limitations, they reduced the main supply to 3/8″ tubing and plumbed only 1 inlet using a quick disconnect. This explained some of the low output flow with the unit. Using undersized supply lines and quick disconnect cause significant pressure drops due to their small inside diameters. When this occurs, you aren’t able to flow enough volume of air (SCFM) to the knife, which results in reduced performance and uneven flow.

The second issue was how they had the unit mounted to the machine. Wanting to keep the air inlets easily accessible, they mounted the face of the knife (the surface the compressed air runs along) right up to the outside wall of the machine, leaving just a small gap for the output flow and built a protective shield around the unit. The Full-Flow Air Knife will entrain 30 parts of surrounding, ambient air for every 1 part (SCFM) of compressed air used. With the unit being unable to entrain any free air, the output flow is further diminished.

How the Standard Air Knife Works
Illustration showing how the Standard and Full-Flow Air Knives operate.

After increasing the supply line to both inlets, removing the quick disconnect and protective shield and moving the knife back to allow for the air entrainment, the customer called back to advise that the strip was now completely dry.

If you are experiencing reduced performance or need help with the installation of your EXAIR product, give us a call at 1-800-903-9247.

Justin Nicholl
Application Engineer